Pubdate: Mon, 04 Feb 2008
Source: Alamogordo Daily News (NM)
Copyright: 2008 Alamogordo Daily News


RATON (AP) - The state Office of the Medical Investigator has 
classified as a homicide the death of a man placed face down in a 
police car with his legs shackled and bent behind him.

Jesse Saenz, 23, was taken to the Colfax County Detention Center in 
the Raton squad car last Nov. 18 with an officer sitting on his lower back.

The means used to restrain him and the position of his body impaired 
his breathing abilities, heightened the effect of drugs in his system 
and contributed significantly to his death, according to the OMI's 
recently completed autopsy.

Shortly before the cruiser pulled up at the jail, Saenz's body 
convulsed and he went limp. Efforts to resuscitate him failed, and he 
was pronounced dead on arrival at a Raton hospital.

The autopsy, conducted by Dr. Jeffrey S. Nine, found high levels of 
cocaine and the presence of marijuana in Saenz's bloodstream.

State police, who are investigating the incident, have said they were 
not sure how the autopsy report will affect their investigation.

A preliminary state police report in December found that Tasers were 
fired 23 times while officers tried to subdue Saenz. The OMI, which 
earlier found that Tasers hit Saenz three times, said Tasers likely 
did not cause his death.

The autopsy found abrasions on Saenz's neck and chest and a puncture 
wound in the left side of his abdomen with a metal Taser tip beneath 
his skin. Medical investigators did not refer to the Taser's 
electronic shocks when discussing what killed Saenz.

The two Raton police officers on the scene told state police they 
believe their Tasers malfunctioned. The Tasers have been confiscated.

Raton Police Chief Vince Mares would not discuss the case, but said 
Friday the officer who sat on Saenz's back remained on leave.

Saenz was found on all fours and talking to himself when Raton police 
officers responded to a call about criminal damage to property last 
November. Raton police said Saenz was initially cooperative, but 
balked when officers tried to put him into the patrol car. Officers 
alleged he kicked at them, leading them to use Tasers.
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